Drifting in and out of consciousness (oxfordhacker) wrote,
Drifting in and out of consciousness

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Strange days

Watched 'Battle Royale' last night with Geneva, Sonia and Lyndsey. Absinthe on special offer at the cinema bar beforehand, so Sonia and I had some. Evil stuff. This was a special preview, and there were only about 15 people in the cinema. No trailers, straight into the film. And quite a film. The plot is basically that an entire class of children are placed on a deserted island, given a random weapon or piece of equipment each, and told that only one of them can survive. This happens yearly, as the result of a law passed in reaction to increasing lack of respect that today's youth have for authority (it's never made clear exactly how this was intended to help...) Very violent, very realistic, very strange. We discussed it in the pub afterwards, and agreed that it wasn't really clear what it was supposed to be 'about'. The premise is played completely straight. If there is any symbolism in there, it's not clear what or why, but if there isn't, it seems hard to justify. Superficially, we decided, it wasn't very different to Hollywood films, except:
- The action was not romantic, dramatic and Hollywoodised, for the most part.
- The premise didn't seem to make any attempt at plausibility or justification.
- The combatants really looked and acted like 15 year-old children.
We ended up being forced to write our lack of comprehension off to vague cultural differences (it's Japanese).

Checking the net today, I found a number of interpretations:
- It's about the (apparently) notoriously competitive Japanese school system.
- It's about the fear in Japan of youth 'running wild', and hinting that a draconian solution may be worse than the problem.
- It's about the 'divide and conquer' method employed in class war, to get a group fighting within itself rather than attacking the true enemy.
- It's about post-war Japan's view of diplomacy: that it is a zero-sum game, i.e. for every win there must be a loser (not very sure about this one. The Battle Royale doesn't seem to be a zero-sum game, for example. I suspect the reviewer was just trying to be a bit clever.)
Alternatively, it occurred to me while writing the above summary that the set-up feels like a ritual sacrifice of some sort (sacrifice of innocents once a year). Don't know if Japan has any traditions/myths that this might reference... I also learned two possibly salient facts. One is that when the director (Kenji Fukasaku) was a child, his classroom was bombed and he saw two-thirds of his classmates killed. The second is that the book upon which this film is based was set in an alternate Japan which had not lost WWII, and goes into the reasons behind the Battle Royale in a way that the film doesn't (and arguably couldn't). You can probably tell that this made quite an impression. Recommended.

Anastasia (known as 'sweet sweet-sweet-sweet Anastasia, it's nice to see ya' (to the tune of 'Catatonia' by Catatonia)) came round again last night. Another episode of 'Tenth Kingdom', more sweets, and Archie walking her home once more. He fears that he has run out of small-talk. Bad sign? There has been a positive omen as well, though. For some time our household has been considering getting a cat. To practice, we have been looking after an imaginary cat for the last month or so, which we named 'Lia Lia'(sp?), at Archie's request, after a cat that Anastasia used to own but which had to be left behind when her family relocated, and (this being 14 years ago) is now presumably dead. We (perhaps understandably) weren't quite sure how she would take learning that we had an imaginary cat named after her dead one, and Archie had therefore intended to carefully choose his moment for breaking it to her. However, Lyndsey (her ex-housemate) happened to blab this fact to her. Luckily, she thought this was 'sweet' (rather than 'disturbing'), which has to be a good sign. Doesn't it?

Current Site: So You Want To Learn Japanese
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